Here we are again. It’s Friday. Welcome.
As a parting gift for the week that was, we present to you a review of the past five days and three key events that have captured our imagination or sparked a renewed sense of urgency, conversation or debate in the state of our nation.
President Zuma to come out
1. The presidency and parliament have announced that Jacob Zuma will appear before the national assembly to field questions from the opposition (probably on Nkandla) on March 11 2015. The DA, EFF and other opposition parties have welcomed the announcement. Yay for democracy! This begs the question: will the EFF spare us a chorus of “pay back the money” chanting at the State of The Nation address on February 12? Stick with us and our Live From Parliament team we’ll bring you all the coverage you need.
2. The media vs. The media
Sometimes politics has little to do with politicians and more to do with the people that analyse, interpret and disseminate the words and philosophies of our elected representatives: the media. The political leanings and (perhaps) shifting form of South African media came into focus this week as the boardroom make-up, editorial ownership and racial dynamic of South African media was sharply debated over by some of the country’s most experienced and respected journalists. Firmly in one corner stood columnist Eusebius McKaiser, Independent Newspapers Group Editor Karima Brown and Indepenedent Newspapers Group Editor of Opinion and Analyis Vukani Mde. On the other end of the intellectual war stood City Press editor Ferial Haffajee and Daily Maverick associate editor Marianne Thamm, supported by veteran anti-apartheid journalist Max du Preez.
Du Preez recently resigned as a columnist from Independent after Karima Brown issued an apology to the presidency for an article he had penned for The Cape Times titled Zuma – SA’s one man wrecking ball. Brown cited factual inaccuracies for the apology. Du Preez cried foul and claimed the apology was issued due to political pressure from new Independent Papers owner Iqbal Surve, who is reportedly close to the ANC. Things escalated even further when Vukani Mde and Karima Brown were spotted at the ANC’s 103rd anniversary celebration in Cape Town sporting ANC gear last Saturday. Yeah. Marianne Thamm responded in article called True Colours Shining Through: Should Journalists be draping themselves in party political colours? In the column, Thamm holds up the image of Mde and Brown in ANC regalia as an example of her growing suspicion that Independent Newspapers is cosying up to the ANC government.
“While the country enjoys a free press, it is a space that is increasingly being squeezed, not only by laws such as the The Protection of State Information Bill (Secrecy Bill), the National Key Points Act, the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill and the now-on-hold Media Appeals Tribunal resolution of the ANC, but also through the diversion of government advertising to publications and media outlets perceived to be sympathetic to the ruling party. These include the Gupta family’s ANN7 television station, The New Age and, more recently, Independent Newspapers.”
– Marianne Thamm
Eusebius McKaiser and Vukani Mde responded, dismissing Thamm’s claims with articles of their own. In Mde’s article, Writing truth to (all forms of power, he claims Marianne Thamm is hypocritical in her analysis of the situation, given that many newspapers such as the Mail & Guardian openly coerce their readers to vote for one party over another without condemnation from her. In his article-style Facebook post, McKaiser makes the same claims, referring to Thamm’s analysis as “very selective and dishonest in its critique of ALL South African reporting, and editing.” Mde shoots back by claiming Thamm is herself representative of the hegemonic clique of (white) journalists who believe their worldview to be the universal standard of journalism.
“This has been a debate that, while interesting, I now realise to have been completely fake. At issue is not the desirability or otherwise of ‘objectivity’ and ‘neutrality’ in journalism. It is one’s stance with regard to the ANC, the government, and the state. This is how the dominant clique represented by Thamm has subtly defined these values over time. In their universe, objectivity and neutrality is mouthing ideologically loaded shibboleths while outwardly pretending their practice of journalism is value-free. It is assuming, without so much as a nod to self-examination, that their world view and value system is the universal norm, and moreover insisting that this norm should be obvious and acceptable to the rest of us. This crowd likes to misappropriate Edward Said’s definition of the role of the public intellectual as “speaking truth to power”, and have turned it into a meaningless platitude. For them, “truth” is opposition and “power” is the ANC (and its alliance), a redefinition of terms coupled with an unwillingness to admit that, in South Africa especially, power is diffuse and resides in spaces outside the public and the political, spaces in which they themselves still hold sway. Far easier to repeat empty slogans about speaking truth to power than to admit that you (your class, your race, your gender, your language) are the wielder of significant cultural and discursive power.”
He ends the article with this:
I do and say and wear what I like. I go where I like. I write what I like. I write truth to power, both the overt political kind exercised by the ANC and others, and the subtle but oppressive cultural power of South Africa’s dominant elite as represented by you, Marianne Thamm. That fact, and that fact alone, is what truly discomforts you.
Ferial Haffajee responded in an article titled “White Internet? WTF? ”
Read more on the matter. This exchange of journalistic philosophy is highly recommended by the VIP Campaign for any young journalist looking to understand a small part of the highly complex dynamics and politics of the media space in South Africa.
3. Soweto Attacks
The Soweto Attacks- as they are now commonly known – have shaken the nation. Leaving many unsure of how to respond or acknowledge the situation in Soweto, which continues to escalate. Still, this is s national incident that will spurn analysis piece upon analysis piece in the weekend’s Sunday papers. As a parting shot, allow me to contribute.
This isn’t an isolated incident, nor should be understood to be. Gross injustice, mob violence and prejudice is a common reality for most South Africans – especially many of those looters. The looters in Soweto over the past week represent some of the country’s poorest and most destitute (and black) people. Whom have, at various points of their lives, been at the sharpest end of racial, social and even criminal injustice. That is the broader context of life (for most) in Soweto. This is the base from which we need to look at it – if we are to be prepared next time – and not from the ‘outside-looking-in’ hegemonic worldview. Many of the people pictured encounter and accept sharp racial prejudices – for instance – as a relative norm. This breeds a climate where prejudice naturally thrives. Umlungu umlungu.
The saddest part? They have as much to gain fighting human rights abuses and prejudice, generally, as any of the foreign store owners they harassed last week. Still, as I stood in Diepkloof – my hometown – watching youths cheer as they dismantled a foreign-owned store from the rooftop, I knew that if one cannot recognise and combat bigotry, prejudice and oppression when one is not in the direct line of fire, it becomes very difficult for one to do so when one is. It’s a cycle that needs to broken. It’s not just about Soweto.
Lee Molefi is the editor of the VIP Campaign.
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The #2014Elections has set an exciting and vibrant context for the future of South Africa politics to unfold upon. What happens now that you’ve voted? How do we gauge whether we’re “moving the country forward”, whether we’re “bringing change” or “economic freedom in our lifetime”? Stick with #LiveVIPZA and we’ll give you analysis, debates, comments, polls and all YOU need to understand, enjoy and interact with SA politics.